4 flops Manchester United must jettison in January

It’s all gone a bit stale at Manchester United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s trademark grin has morphed into a conspicuous frown as the Red Devils make a habit of finding different ways to disappoint. A recent defeat to rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford – in which the 3-1 scoreline flattered the hosts – put United’s many shortcomings under a microscope, perfectly highlighting the issues Solskjaer must address.

Stagnant, tedious, and hopelessly lacking in creativity, United’s squad boasts sturdy pillars like Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka – and a slew of useless players who have come to personify Solskjaer’s futile tenure.

Amid reports linking the club with January reinforcements, here’s a look at a quartet of players turning a once-celebrated outfit into a laughing stock:

Jesse Lingard

  • Age: 27
  • Position: Attacking midfielder
  • Reported wages: £75K a week
  • Under contract until: Summer 2021
Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Deservedly banished for the time being from Gareth Southgate’s England setup, Lingard didn’t record a goal or an assist over 28 appearances for United in the calendar year. That’s not a typo. Moreover, awful showings in 2020 against Arsenal and City suggest Lingard’s form might stick.

Currently lacking a central creative presence, Solskjaer has experimented with Lingard and Andreas Pereira in playmaking roles to comical results. Lingard isn’t technically gifted enough to play in United’s midfield and his final product is Championship-level. An outstanding work rate and ability to press shouldn’t be enough to keep the academy product in the team. Harsh, but incredibly fair.

Andreas Pereira

  • Age: 24
  • Position: Central midfielder
  • Reported wages: £30K a week
  • Under contract until: Summer 2023
James Williamson – AMA / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Pereira may be younger and offer more flexibility than Lingard, but he’s no more entitled to a spot in the starting XI than his bumbling teammate. Despite appearing in all but three of the club’s league outings this season, Pereira is neither a central midfielder nor a playmaker.

With Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay both nursing injuries, shipping Pereira in January is a next-to-impossible task for the incompetent Ed Woodward. But Pereira’s showing in a dreadful draw with Aston Villa offered a good sample of the once-capped Brazilian’s shortcomings: 90 minutes played, zero shots on target, three of seven long balls completed, and two of seven crosses finding a mark.

Nemanja Matic

  • Age: 31
  • Position: Defensive midfielder
  • Reported wages: £120K a week
  • Under contract until: Summer 2020
Paul Kane / Getty Images Sport / Getty

At his best, Matic was a combative and tactically aware deep-lying midfielder who both buffered the backline and allowed attacking teammates to blossom. In his current state, the towering Serbian international is the club’s eighth-highest earner and too sluggish by Premier League standards.

Matic performed decently when he came on for Pereira at the half against City, proving he’s the only United midfielder with enough poise in possession to sustain a press. But that composure does little to offset glacial movements that have become incongruous with the league’s swift style of play. Still, Matic is the least culpable member of this confounding quartet and can leave on a free in June.

Phil Jones

  • Age: 27
  • Position: Central defender
  • Reported wages: £75K a week
  • Under contract until: Summer 2023
Victoria Haydn / Manchester City FC / Getty

The most egregious example of United’s broken contract situation, Jones penned an extension through 2023 last February. It was one of the more inexplicable recent decisions by a club noted for making baffling choices in the absence of a technical or sporting director. What a mess.

No player on the pitch against City was as ridiculed as Jones. And rightly so. Slow, ineffectual, and technically decayed, the equine doppelganger was spun like a top by Kevin de Bruyne on Pereira’s own goal before injuring himself trying to chase Riyad Mahrez. Shambolic stuff from a player who will collect roughly £15 million more in wages if he sees out his current terms.

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